• Weekly Webcrawl

    The world’s first non-human whisperers: cotton-top tamarins (which, by the way, are freaking adorable). Toxoplasmosis, which emboldens mice in the presence of cats and gives humans schizophrenic-like traits, is still my favorite parasite. A new bug repellent renders you invisible to mosquitoes. I’m not sure this qualifies as science, nor whether it’s really ethical, but it’s certainly […]

  • Making IVF relevant for the 85 percent

    At any given moment, about 7 million US couples want to get pregnant but can’t. Of these, just 60 thousand or so go through in vitro fertilization. What happened to the other 85 percent? Well, considering each round of IVF costs on average $9K, and it takes, on average, 6 rounds to be successful, there’s […]

  • Under water with Kubla Khan

    When professor Mark Patterson told me the story behind his first autonomous underwater robot, I couldn’t help but think of Kubla Khan, the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which the poet envisioned during an opium-induced trance. Of course, it wasn’t milk of the poppy that sent Patterson into an  inspirational reverie, but rather the […]

  • “All models are wrong, some are useful”

    There are good models and there are bad models. For example, how many times have you purchased what amounted to be a garbage sack because it looked so much like a beautiful dress on the airbrushed model in the picture online? If it’s half as many times as I have, then you know that models […]

  • Giving voice to the voiceless, with personality

    I’ve written about Professor Rupal Patel’s work several times before, but it never ever gets old. So much of our personality, she’s told me before, is tied up in our voice. That ends up meaning a lot to someone who can’t use their voice to communicate. Patel is working on a technology that not only […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl

    It’s that time of the week again! And we have much to celebrate, other than it being Friday… FIRST: The blobfish!! SECOND: Voyager 1 made it to the outer galaxy on August 25th! We’re just finding out about it today because a) it took so long for the data to make it all the way […]

  • Flippers up! Diving into the Marine Science Center

    About 35 minutes north of Boston sits one of Northeastern’s single greatest gems. Perhaps once it’s best kept secret, the Marine Science Center is now going through a serious coming of age, nearly fifty years after it was established. With the kick-off of the Urban Coastal Sustainability Initiative last year, the MSC has been growing […]

  • Why spite?

    Spite, in the words of Merriam and Webster, is “the desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone.” But I like this definition better: “Spite [is] the shady relative of altruism.” If altruism is costly behavior that helps another, spiteful characters pay to harm another. This is how Northeastern assistant professor of philosophy Rory Smead describes […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl

    I caught an unfortunate glimpse of the show “Alien Autopsy” the other day. Why do we need to make up silly stuff like that when the world is already so mysterious all on its own? Case in point: “Weird web-tower things” in the Amazon. A though provoking post by RadioLab host Robert Krulwich about the […]

  • Scientific snacks on Krentzman Quad

    For the better part of a decade I worked in chemistry laboratories that had regular access to liquid nitrogen. If I knew then what I know now…I would have eaten a lot more ice cream during those years. Friday afternoon, the Northeastern student affiliates of the American Chemical Society hosted their annual liquid nitrogen ice-cream party […]

  • Polling in the new era of Italian politics

    In late February, something happened to the Italian government that had never happened before: a hung parliament. After 75 percent of the population turned out to vote, it took two days to tally the results. Now, almost three weeks later, the center right and center left parties remain in a steadfast gridlock. A third party–the […]

  • Healthy choices despite disparities

    Interactive health technologies are a hot topic these days. Between Nike’s FuelBand and mobile phone apps like LoseIt!, the world has come to realize that interactive computing has a lot to offer  the layperson in the way of managing her own health. These new platforms were just starting to emerge when professor Andrea Parker began […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl: Better late than never

    Last week’s Webcrawl got stuck in a snowbank on Friday morning. It took me all weekend to dig it out. (Actually, that’s fiction, but the true story is much less exciting.) Here are a few of my favorite science stories from last week: I’m sure you didn’t miss it, but a baby born with AIDS […]

  • The social side of Sandy

    When disaster strikes, we rely on our social networks for support. During hurricane Sandy, neighbors helped neighbors by sharing electrical power with those who’d lost it or removing tree limbs from each other’s rooftops. In many cases, the help we get during emergencies comes from whomever happens to be nearby, but more and more our […]

  • Mediterranean diet is old but good news

    I went grocery shopping over the weekend and if you knew anything about my normal eating habits, you would have been rather surprised by the things I brought home with me: tons of fruits and vegetables, a huge bag of potatoes, shrimp, haddock, whole grain bread, nuts galore, yogurt, and even a little granola. I […]

  • Dumpster dive

    Last spring, four members of the Husky Environmental Action Team, or HEAT, got down and dirty with campus trash. For the last 20 years, building services director Mark Boulter has organized the annual “dumpster dive” to get a sense of what the Northeastern community is throwing away. This was the first time students got to […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl: Sequestration edition

    In recognition of sequestration–across-the-baord federal spending cuts that automatically take effect today–I’m dedicating this week’s webcrawl to the beauty of science. First, watch this and swoon: via Wired. This video reminds me of two things: The world is a beautiful place that deserves our attention, exploration, and educated protection. Politics are a lot like the […]

  • A radar for emotion

    Engineers are good at tracking things. That’s according to Northeastern graduate student, Sarah Brown. As a fellow of Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Brown is collaborating with researchers at both Draper and Northeastern to track something that has never really been tracked before: emotion. Well, let me rephrase that. Emotion has been tracked before, but not […]

  • Character study: Michail ‘A2A’ Sitkovsky

    Like all humans, scientists come in every shape, size and color imaginable. Every now and then I run into a real character. That is most certainly the case with the subject of my story on the News@Northeastern today. Professor Michail Sitkovsky is a burly man with a mutinous brow and thick accent that makes everything […]

  • A burst for Bursts

    The other day I starred the following headline in my RSS feed: “Any Two Pages on the Web Are Connected By 19 Clicks or Less.” I didn’t read it immediately because it sounded like vaguely familiar old news that I could probably return to later. But this morning in our office’s daily editorial meeting, I […]

  • Nemo and the inner workings of climate change models

    After winter storm ‘Nemo’ dropped two feet of snow on us a couple weeks ago, it took the City of Boston two days to plow one of the roads leading to my home. The other was still buried beneath a thick, icy blanket for another day. The term “global warming” has been sitting on our […]

  • AAAS 2013: Environmental Challenges and Adaptation in Cities

    “If we want to use research to inspire action by cities and have that research be inspired by what cities currently do to affect their vulnerabilities, it really means we must work closely together with decision making communities and stakeholder groups,” said Northeastern professor Matthias Ruth, who holds joint appointments with the School of Public […]

  • AAAS 2013: Predicting human behavior

    If you’ve driven on the highway, you’ve seen it: The traffic jam appears out of nowhere and disappears just as mysteriously.  We blame the cars around us for their poor driving skills, and slam on our own breaks. During an AAAS annual meeting session hosted by Northeastern professor Albert-László Barabási, Northwestern professor Dirk Helbing showed […]

  • AAAS 2013: The science of politics

    Until yesterday, I hadn’t thought too much about the term “political science.” I probably first heard it in high school or college, when I accepted it as an item of potential academic study that I would not pursue and went on with my life (I consider politics to be the single most abstract and frustrating […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl: Love is in the ‘sphere

    The sclogosphere went nuts yesterday with love-related science posts. Here are few that caught my eye: The physics of sunsets only makes them more romantic, argues Ethan Siegel on ScienceBlogs. Apparently continuing fractions are romantic, too. A couple years ago, researchers came up with a mathematical model to predict the success of relationships.Others say that oxytocin is […]

  • AAAS 2013: Communicating science to policy makers

    Several Northeastern scientists are presenting at the AAAS meeting this weekend trying in part to connect with policy makers and science writers. “The hope is to have a tangible impact on the global challenges that the University’s use-inspired approach to science attempts to affect,” said Tim Leshan, vice president for government relations. But how can […]

  • Weekly Webcrawl: singing whales, soaring starlings, and squid sex

    Time for the second installment of my Weekly Webcrawl series. It was a busy week in science news. Here are a few highlights: If you’re ever feeling lonely, just visit this website and Hawaiian whales will sing to you in real time. It was a good news week for animal sex: Giant-squid were filmed in […]

  • Alert 101: Airport Screening Technologies

    Here’s a great video produced by the DHS Center of Excellence, ALERT, or Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (what is it about engineers and acronyms?!). ALERT 101 is a new series featuring the center’s unique technologies and research areas. This one explains millimeter wave and back scatter airport screening systems. For more info on […]

  • Stop worrying about it: distraction fuels better decisions

    I’m pretty much the world’s worst decision maker. This is especially true at restaurants. The other day I made the waiter save me for last and then, after six other orders, I still needed him to walk me through the menu like a private tutor. I was vaguely pleased with my final choice, but I […]